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How “Jews” Became “Children of the Devil” in the New Testament

I have just started getting into the meat of the book proposal I have written for myself about The Battle for the Bible, on how it is that Christians claimed that the Hebrew Scriptures belonged to them rather than the Jews, and how this is what ultimately led to Christian opposition to Judaism and the Jews who practiced it.    As the argument unfolds, I hope it will make increasing sense!  Here’s the next bit, dealing with how the process began.

 

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As we saw in the previous post, Church Fathers in effect were arguing on two fronts, with Jews who did not see the virtues of an interpretation of the Bible that pointed to Jesus as the messiah and “heretics” who either overvalued Scripture , thinking its laws were still in force, or rejected altogether, claiming it was not a revelation of the true God.

 

Jesus’ Followers and the Jewish Scriptures

To understand these debates and their momentous historical consequences, we need to start at the beginning, with Jesus himself.   Even though critical scholars of the New Testament disagree on numerous issues relating to the life and teachings of historical Jesus, they agree on one crucial point:  Jesus was, if nothing else, a Jewish teacher thoroughly entrenched in, informed by, and committed to the Jewish culture of his day and, above all, the Jewish Scriptures.   Jesus accepted the Torah as a revelation from God; he became a teacher of Scripture, quoted Scripture, and interpreted Scripture; he taught Then the worst of all things happened.  Jesus made a final trip to Jerusalem at a Passover feast, possibly in order to take his message to the heart of the Jewish homeland.  But rather than asserting his power and being crowned king, he was rejected, maligned, arrested, tried, and crucified.   This is not what was supposed to happen to the messiah.  It was the opposite of what would happen to the messiah.  The messiah was to be a figure of grandeur and power who destroyed the enemy.  In clear contrast, Jesus was squashed by the enemy, publicly humiliated and tortured to death.   For the disciples, there could not have been a more catastrophic and definitive disconfirmation of their hopes.  Jesus obviously was not the messiah.

But soon after his death, some of his disciples came to believe …

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The Jewish Bible in the Gentile Churches
Should the Old Testament Even Be in the Bible?

75

Comments

  1. Avatar
    tskorick  June 12, 2019

    I have a couple of questions that aren’t relevant to the topic of this post, it was suggested that I post them on the blog for others to see also, I hope this isn’t too non sequitur:

    Quite a few of the oldest NT papyrus fragments seem to be so tiny in size as to make one wonder how historians can discern if they come from an actual entire gospel or letter or are just quotes included in a document from an early church figure.

    So my questions are: 1) how do scholars determine that smaller fragments are likely from an entire gospel or epistle, and 2) do scholars weight the authority of these witnesses somewhat lower due to their tiny size than more substantial witnesses? For example, I noticed that the NA28 cites P52 in its critical apparatus for John 18 which is a very small fragment, while we also have P66, which some date later but likely started out containing a copiy of John in its entirety rather than passages quoted in passing by another person.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      Great questions. 1) Usually manuscripts of the NT — even the tiniest fragments — are written on *both* sides. So if there is biblical verse on one side, and another on the other, and if they are spaced just as they would be in a manuscript, the manuscript is almost certainly biblical (since a commentary would be talking about something else on the other side, in all likelihood) 2) The witness of the small fragments are taken every bit as seriously as full manuscripts. One problem is that if all you have is a scrap, you often do not have enough text to determine if the scribe made lots of mistakes or not — so it’s a bit more difficult to evaluate. But especially the early fragments are taken with the utmost seriousness.

  2. Avatar
    mosheshulman  June 12, 2019

    Do we know what the percentages of non-Jews there were in the Christian community when the gospels were being written in the mid/late 1st century? It always seemed to me that as the church separated from Judaism, so it’s view of Jews changed, becoming more anti Jewish.

    Dr Schiffman in his work ‘Who was a Jew’ contends that Jewish Christians were still part of the Jewish community until the Bar Kochbah revolt. That would indicate that the conflict leading to anti semitism was more Jew vs (non-Jewish) Christian rather than Jew vs Christian.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      No, I wish we did. Our only real indication comes from Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he greets 26 people by name (this is not a church he founded; so he’s greeting only the people he knows are there); of these, he identifies six as Jewish. So that would suggest that this church, at least, was roughly 75% gentile around the year 60.

      • Avatar
        mosheshulman  June 14, 2019

        Would I be wrong in my assumption that based on Pliny’s letters to Trajan that by that time the church was so non-Jewish that it was in the mind of Romans a new cult as opposed to being an extention or alternate practice of Judaism.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 16, 2019

          Yes, that’s definitely my reading.

          • Avatar
            Yochanan  August 14, 2019

            Hi Bart,
            In our tradition both the written & oral Torah were delivered to Moses for 40 days directly by God besides the additional 39 years.
            70 elders received a portion of Moses’ spirit & were given judicial authority to interpret the Torah in their generations.
            Our concept of a suffering messiah is connected to the Messiah son of Joseph not David. Are you familiar with the two Messiah concepts?

          • Bart
            Bart  August 14, 2019

            Yup. But mainly in its earliest iteration in the Dead Sea Scolls.

      • Avatar
        dankoh  June 23, 2019

        Based on Rodney Stark’s calculations and your analysis of his work (in Triumph of Christianity), I guesstimate that there were around 7-10,000 Christians in 100 CE, of whom perhaps 1000 were of Jewish origin. So that would that mean 70-90% of the Christian world was already gentile in origin. Jewish Christians continued to be identifiable into the IV century, but they were marginal.

        • Avatar
          Hngerhman  August 15, 2019

          Hi dankoh – very interesting “guesstimate”; if it isn’t a bother, would you mind breaking down your reasoning on how you’re making the numerical inferences? Thanks!

          • Avatar
            dankoh  August 16, 2019

            See Bart’s book The Triumph of Christianity. 286-94; he analyzes Rodney Stark’s numbers and comes up with the 7-10,000 figure. For the likely number of Jews who became Christians, see David Sim’s 2005 article in the Harvard Theological Review: https://hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/viewFile/430/329 . Those 3 are my main authorities for those numbers, which I find reasonable based in part on the lack of mention of any larger number of Christians in the sources. The story in Acts that 8,000 Jews converted in two days is not credible; that’s close to half the population of the city and could not have gone unnoticed.

            The 7-10,000 figure in 100 CE is enough to grow to the 30 million or so in 300 years, assuming the usual generational increase coupled with missionary activities.

        • Avatar
          Hngerhman  August 19, 2019

          Awesome, thanks a ton. Both for the rationale and for the citations. I was aware of BDE’s presentation of Stark’s work, but the work by Sim is completely new to me. A fascinating topic. Cheers!

  3. Robert
    Robert  June 12, 2019

    Bart: “It was not long before the followers of Jesus moved from being an integral part of Judaism to being a separationist sect within Judaism.”

    By ‘separationist’, do you mean to say by this that the impetus for separation from the various Judaisms of its day came principally from the ‘Christians’? As opposed to being driven out by their fellow Jews? Or some combination of both and less intentional factors?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      Yeah, the “ist” is the problem I guess. All I mean is that the group of Jews who believed in Jesus understood themselves to stand over against the jews who did not, and met together separately at times.

      • Avatar
        mosheshulman  June 14, 2019

        Am I understanding you correct to mean two groups 1. Jewish who believers who believed they were still a part of Judaism and 2. Jewish believers who did not think they were a part of Judaism.

        If I am right I have two questions:

        1. Were there ever non-Jewish believer who believed they were a part of Judaism?

        2. Do we have an idea of the relative size of 1 and 2?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 16, 2019

          It depends what time period you’re referring to. In the early decades, probably all Jewish believers in Jesus considered themselves still to be part of Judaism. And yes, non-Jewish believers in Jesus who began to adopt the ways of Judaism would have understood themselves to be Jews, probably “the true” Jews.

  4. Avatar
    AstaKask  June 12, 2019

    I would recommend Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”. It contains a lot of psychological work on ingroup-outgroup conflict and this seems like a clear case of that.

  5. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  June 12, 2019

    The issue I have is not necessarily what is being laid out here. It’s that it begins with early Christianity rather than examining the attitudes and prejudices against the Jews before Christianity begins. Maybe it’s not necessary to go into that for a prospectus.

    My main interest for this book is how the OT presents the coming messiah and how Jesus fits the description, whether it’s none at all or partially. Some questions I have about that:

    1. Jesus believed himself to be the messiah, so does that mean he saw himself in the scriptures? If he did, then what made him think so? If not, then how could he have claimed he was the messiah?

    2. Considering the diversity of the Jewish religion, it seems to me that their expectations for the messiah would have been wide-ranging. And considering those differences, they may have not been using the same books to see the prophecy fulfilled. I’d like to know what books were being used at the time along with the differences in their views for the messiah.

    3. You mentioned that Jews thought Jesus being the messiah was blasphemous. Are there ancient sources, outside of the NT, that accuse Christians of blasphemy?

    I’m guessing that more time will be spent on the development of anti-semitism rather than OT prophecies for the messiah. For me, I find the subject a bit on the depressing side, so it’s not a topic I’m inclined to read normally. Although, I see there’s several here who have expressed a great interest. I am a little concerned that those who have different views from your own may get mislabeled as hateful or anti-semitic.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 12, 2019

      Ah, excellent point. Yes, as I said, I’m writing the perspective for myself — this isn’t what I’ll publish. Part of what I *publish* will be a demonstration — made by others long before me — that we have no records of Jews being singled out for persecution on purely ethnic or religious grounds prior to Christianity.

      The other questions are important too. But they would require lots more space than is possible in a reply to a comment. As you know, whole books have been written on 1 & 2. On 3, yes, we do have later Jewish sources that curse the Christians as heretics. (E.g. later forms of the Birkat ha-minim that curse the “Nozrim” — Nazareons — come immediately to mind.

      A good book on Jewish responses to Christian anti-Judaism is by Claudia Setzer.

      • Avatar
        dannawid  June 13, 2019

        dr ehrman,
        as you said jesus was a teacher who preached the ot to the jews. so jesus was not realy a christian but a jewish reformer. his followers could have been essenes or a group mentioned in the comunity rule of the dead see scrolls: the havurot. i came across this word in the quran. the quranic verse goes as follows: jesus said: who will be my supportes in the cause of god, the havurot said we will be your supporters. so jesus is a good practicing jew and his followers were all jews who kept the law. so when some jewish writers curse the christians as heretics, would they be justified? same way the church accused the ebionite of heresy. although the ebionite got their doctrines first hand from jesus. by adding some of the ot to the christian bible, the church fathers confused every one including marcian. could it be when the church fathers added some books of the ot to the christian bible the were hoping that the average christian will not have access to it?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 14, 2019

          Apparently not — they continued to preach and affirm the OT, in their OWN interpretation of it. But the reality is that average Christains didn’t have direct access to it, apart from what they heard in church (i.e. the preachers’ views of it) because average Christians were literally illiterate and books were not widely available except to the rich and literate.

        • Avatar
          Omar6741  July 8, 2019

          Did you actually find ‘havurot’ in the Community Rule? Do you have a reference for that? Thanks!

          • Robert
            Robert  July 10, 2019

            I think חבורה (havurah) only occurs in the singular a few times in the Dead Sea, always in a generic sense, and not at all in the Community Rule. Not sure what dannawid may be thinking of here.

          • Robert
            Robert  July 11, 2019

            Did a search on the computerized text of the Dead Sea Scrolls at home this morning and found one possibly non-plene spelling of חׄבר֯ת existing all by itself in a tiny fragment (4Q502 f246:1). Without any context, it is impossible to say anything about its meaning here, or if it is even plural.

      • Avatar
        Matt2239  June 13, 2019

        Is not the enslavement of the entire Jewish nation by the Egyptians and that whole “let my people go” thing evidence of Jews being singled out for persecution on religious and ethnic grounds? You need to watch that Cecil B. Demille film with Charlton Heston. And you shouldn’t make this so easy, Bart.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahkwQhQZWG8&list=PLDAF3D3C423008654

        • Bart
          Bart  June 14, 2019

          Right! I decided a long time ago not to let Cecile B. Demille, and especially Charlton Heston, influence my understandings of history and reality! But no, the Egyptians did not exploit the Israelites for religious and ethnic reasons. It was all political and economic. They had a slave economy and these people were some of their slaves. They didn’t give a damn about their religious customs. (At least as reported in Exodus)

          • Avatar
            Matt2239  June 14, 2019

            Exodus says the Israelites were targeted for brutality and infanticide by Pharaoh because they were growing in number and strength. They were specifically mistreated because they had become “more and mightier than we,” according to the Pharaoh. It wasn’t economic. It was tribal, and visceral.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 16, 2019

            Well, they were *slaves* building pharaonic cities….

      • Avatar
        dankoh  June 23, 2019

        Setzer’s book is excellent. I’d also suggest Claudia Moss’s “The Myth of Persecution” covering how early Christians exaggerated the opposition to them. Regarding whether Jesus really saw himself as the messiah, there’s is Wrede’s classic analysis of Mark, in which he contends that the idea of Jesus of messiah arose only after his death.

    • Avatar
      mosheshulman  June 14, 2019

      Might I suggest Contra Apion from Josephus. Probably the earliest Jewish anti-anti-Judaism book.

  6. Avatar
    kazawolf  June 12, 2019

    I should probably know this, but can you reference the scripture passages that foretell the “conquering hero” messiah?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      Passages taken this way were usually such as Psalm 110; the idea is more that the “messiah” by definition was the future military-king since that’s what the word refers to (God’s “anointed” one — used of the kings). The idea is developed more concretely in writings in the time of Jesus, most famously Psalms of Solomon 17.

  7. Avatar
    Gdittmer  June 12, 2019

    We hear a lot about messianic prophecies that christians use to prove Jesus is the messiah. I’m curious though, prior to Jesus, what old testament prophecies/verses the Jews used to justify their belief that the coming messiah was going to be a powerful ruler that was going to restore the Jewish nation in a new age of justice and peace?

  8. Avatar
    fedcarroll77  June 12, 2019

    Professor,

    Just to spin off of a comment you made about the messiah and such.

    I’m currently reading a small book by Juan Marcos Gutirierrez called the Messianic Expectation. Very informative book about how the concept of the messiah came about. Not only it was a second temple period idea, it’s very diverse in the expectation.

  9. Avatar
    doug  June 12, 2019

    “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” has always puzzled me as Jesus’ last words. If these words were placed on Jesus’ lips by later tradition, why use words that accuse God of forsaking Jesus? Or did Jesus probably say that?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      Because it fits in perfectly with Mark’s own theology: no one understands that Jesus has to die, not even Jesus himself. But God knows, and shows the reader, who also knows! It’s for the salvation of the world.

      • Robert
        Robert  June 14, 2019

        Bart: “Because it fits in perfectly with Mark’s own theology: no one understands that Jesus has to die, not even Jesus himself …”

        That can’t possibly be Mark’s theology. The Markan Jesus predicts his death and resurrection several times. He speaks to James and John about their needing to undergo the same baptism and drink from the same cup. He says of himself as the Son of Man that he needs to give his life as a ransom for many, etc. Whatever meaning one tries to attribute to Gethsemane and the cry of dereliction in Mark’s gospel, it can’t simply be that the Markan Jesus did not understand that he needed to die. Perhaps you are thinking of an earlier, pre-Markan passion narrative??

        • Bart
          Bart  June 16, 2019

          Yes, of course he predicts it. Passion narrative with a long introduction. But my ivew is that for Mark, at the end, when it comes to the moment (Gethsemane; the cross) even Jesus doesn’t understand why it’s necessary, just like the others.

          • Robert
            Robert  June 16, 2019

            Bart: “Yes, of course he predicts it. Passion narrative with a long introduction. But my ivew is that for Mark, at the end, when it comes to the moment (Gethsemane; the cross) even Jesus doesn’t understand why it’s necessary, just like the others.”

            Interesting. You think Mark presents Jesus as at one time understanding the necessity of his suffering but later on being ignorant of why this is necessary. The text can, of course, be read this way, but it does seem rather unusual. Can you say something more about how you understand this?

          • Bart
            Bart  June 17, 2019

            Yup, the reverse of no atheists in foxholes. In times of distress, people are thrown into confusion and reverse themselves. For Mark that serves a brilliant literary purpose — since right after Jesus indicates he doesn’t know why God has forsaken him, the reader is *shown* why, in the ripping of the curtain and the confession of the centurion. Luke changes all three things: Jesus doesn’t utter the cry of dereliction, the ripping of the curtain comes earlier and means something different, and the centurion says something else.

  10. Avatar
    jhague  June 12, 2019

    For the early Christians, Jews had forsaken their claim and rights of being the people of God. They were the enemies of God. As the Gospel of John eventually expressed it, the Jews were instead “the children of the Devil”

    Would this have been the thoughts of Gentile Christians…not Jewish Christians?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      There’s good evidence to suggest that Jewish Christians also felt this (or came to feel this) about their non-Jesus-believing former family, friends, and neighbors.

  11. fefferdan
    fefferdan  June 12, 2019

    Bart, first I congratulate you for your contention: “Jesus made a final trip to Jerusalem at a Passover feast, possibly in order to take his message to the heart of the Jewish homeland. But rather than asserting his power and being crowned king, he was rejected, maligned, arrested, tried, and crucified. This is not what was supposed to happen to the messiah.” Few critical scholars take seriously the idea that Jesus was trying to succeed as the Jewish messiah. So your view takes on both fellow scholars and traditional Christian orthodoxy, that he went to Jerusalem knowing that it was time to be crucified.

    Beyond that, I also want to get you to clarify something: You characterize the Jewish response to Christian claims this way: ” Rather than overthrow the enemy he had been crushed by the enemy. To say that Jesus was the anticipated messiah was not simply wrong. It was blasphemous against God.” But was the problem for Jews really the Christian claim that a failed messiah was still the messiah? I wonder if there’s evidence for that. To follow a false messiah is not a blasphemy. Even Rabbi Akiva [still highly honored in Jewish tradition] did that. For me, the problem was not the continued insistence that Jesus was the messiah. Rather it was that he was a resurrected being of divine power, on his way to becoming a Divinity. I’d add to this a harsh Christian attitude toward Jews who did not respond to the Gospel [evidenced for example in Stephen’s blistering attack on the Jews for rejecting Jesus].

    So my question is: why do you think Christian insistence on Jesus’ messiahship was a ‘blasphemy’ – as opposed to his his sitting at the right hand of God, his emerging divinity, and the Christian attitude of seemingly arrogant judgment against other Jews?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      Thanks for your thoughts. Akiva followed a “failed messiah” *before* he had failed. Christians were claiming that precisely in being crucified Jesus had shown he was the messiah. I’m not sure the non-Christian Jews would have used the specific term “blasphemy,” but the claim was the reason for very serious punishment (Paul being flogged on five different occasions; 2 Cor. 11:24)

      • Avatar
        dankoh  June 23, 2019

        There is a line of thinking, which I agree with, that Paul was punished for telling the gentiles not to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods – the “idols” – which was a form of treason and which put the Jewish communities where he preached in danger. It would also explain why the Romans beat him with the rod.

        I have to question your use of “blasphemy” here; it seems to follow the gospel charge rather than Jewish law of the time, in which blasphemy was specifically cursing God by name (Lev. 24:16). Certainly the Sadducees of the Temple would not have gone beyond that definition, though the Essenes also applied it to Moses: “What they honor most of all, after God himself, is the name of their legislator [Moses]; whom, if any blaspheme, he is punished capitally” (War 2.145 [bracketed text is in the Whiston translation]).

        But arguing over interpretations of Scripture or claiming that someone is or was the messiah (or the son of God, a term found in the Qumran scrolls) would not have been considered blasphemy,

        • Bart
          Bart  June 23, 2019

          I”m actually not familiar with the technical use of the term “blasphemy” in the first century CE — since we have virtually no sources that use the word (do we? Not sure!) I’m not sure where we would turn.

          • Avatar
            dankoh  June 24, 2019

            The only Jewish or quasi-Jewish source I can find in the 1st century is Josephus, War 2.145: βλασφημήσῃ. His use of the word is specific to the name (τοὔνομα – by name) of God – and the name of Moses. In Lev. 24:15 the word used is יְקַלֵּ֥ל – he curses – again, a specific action. (The LXX translates this as καταράσηται θεόν.) The Temple Scroll discusses a case where a man already guilty of a capital crime curses “his people” (11QT 64:10); that seems to be as close as the DSS comes. We don’t have any contemporaneous texts from the Pharisees. The Talmud understands blasphemy to be limited to an actual curse, as it uses the euphemism ברכת השם (literally, “bless God”); see eg b. Sanh. 56a. That’s a few centuries later, of course, but suggests that Jewish jurisprudence had not expanded the concept beyond cursing God by name (and also pronouncing the unpronounceable Name).

            The NT uses βλασφημήσῃ variants in a lot of places, including of course Matt. 26:65, where the high priest says that you have heard Jesus’s blasphemy (βλασφημίαν) – although, as I wrote earlier, what Jesus said does not come anywhere close to cursing God by name. But it’s also used in a broader sense, as in 1 Cor. 10:30 – “why am I denounced/slandered (βλασφημοῦμαι). . . .” (Though I can’t see what Jesus said in Matt. 26:64 as slandering God either.)

            When Josephus uses the Greek term, I read him as intending the stricter Jewish meaning, not the broader Greek one. So in terms how the word was used technically in Jewish courts of the 1st century, I’m going with its being limited to cursing God by name.

            Hope this helps.

            (Disclaimer: I don’t know Greek. I’m using Strong’s concordance, intuition, and a smidgen of chutzpah.)

  12. Avatar
    AlbertHodges  June 12, 2019

    The problem that I have with this post is that the first Christians did not claim to merely claim to have visions of Jesus after his death. Each gospel clearly states that the tomb was EMPTY. Nothing about visions.

    So the Christian faith is NOT built on visions of a dead Jesus but rather the discovery of an empty tomb. Which means the body was gone.

    There is NO WAY of reconciling these texts with visions. It means that the first Christians perpetuated a deliberate fraud by lying about the empty tomb.

    Dr. Ehrman, is there an explanation you can provide that isn’t built on lies and deception by the first Christians, or at least by those who claimed to have witnessed the empty tomb?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      I’m not sure what you mean. The Gospels explicitly state that the disciples saw Jesus afterward. The word “vision” simply means “a thing that is seen.” (Comes from the Latin word “video” — to see). Believes would say the disciples saw Jesus because he was really there; non-beleivers would say they saw him even though he wasn’t there. In both cases they “saw” him. It’s really important to note: in NO case does an empty tomb promote faith. It promotes confusion and perplexity. It’s the visions that promote faith. Moreover, I don’t agree at all — not in the least — that the ealry Christians were LYING about the empty tomb. The stories that the tomb were empty developed among later story tellers who assumed the tomb was indeed empty, even though they themselves were living many years later in different parts of the world. They simply didn’t know.

      • Avatar
        AlbertHodges  June 14, 2019

        Sorry about my poorly worded original post. However, you answered it well. I take it that you are saying that the first followers of Jesus did not think the tomb was empty but that the gospel writers or (folks in between who provided the source info to the gospel writers) made it up.

        Is that correct?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 16, 2019

          Not quite. I’m not saying that the earliest followers did not think the tomb was empty. I don’t know if they did or not. But they appear not to have stressed the point in order to show that this is the reason someone should come to believe, and they did not think it was why the disciples of Jesus themselves came to believe. But yes, someone came up with hte idea that the tomb was empty. But we don’t know who or whne, other than that it was before Mark’s Gospel. (Paul, writing earlier, never mentions an empty tomb)

      • Rick
        Rick  June 16, 2019

        Professor, would not the empty tomb or, some like literary device, be necessary for the resurrection to be a physical reanimation? Perhaps to counter the logical supposition that the desciples had merely seen a ghost?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 16, 2019

          Yes, I think that’s why the tradition arose. Disciples said Jesus arose. Other believers said it was a spritual resurrection. Others wanted to insist that it was physical. Empty tomb stories are invented to *show* it.

  13. Avatar
    fishician  June 13, 2019

    It doesn’t seem that the Jews were particularly evangelistic about trying to convert Gentiles. I suspect the early Jewish Christians were mainly concerned with just convincing their fellow Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. Is the fact that most Jews rejected their message the reason that Christianity became an evangelistic religion, as exemplified by Paul? Was it driven by the necessity for Gentile converts since they were rejected by the Jews? Or do you think it was destined for world expansion regardless?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      I give some discussoin to the problem in my book Triumph of Christianity. There I argue that two factors made Christains evangelistic, when their Jewish forebears had not been: 1) they believed anyone who rejected their message would be physically punished forever; and 2) they were taught they had to love eveyrone as themselves (Jews thought so too, of course, since that’s part of Torah; but they didn’t think converting anyone had anything to do with their eternal wellbeing)

      • Robert
        Robert  June 19, 2019

        Bart: “… two factors made Christains evangelistic, when their Jewish forebears had not been: 1) they believed anyone who rejected their message would be physically punished forever …”

        Obviously you’re speaking of this motivation among later Christians, after belief in eternal punishment became standard.

        Bart: “… and 2) they were taught they had to love eveyrone as themselves (Jews thought so too, of course, since that’s part of Torah; but they didn’t think converting anyone had anything to do with their eternal wellbeing)”

        Although it is generally accepted that Judaism on the whole was not a missionary religion, and I completely agree, it seems to me that other apocalyptic Jews, eg, some of the Pharisees, might have had the same motivation to start bringing about the obedience of the gentiles during the end times prior to the coming of the Lord. Or do you think all of the other apocalyptic Jews were only waiting for a Messiah to do this for them?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 19, 2019

          1) No, I think Paul thought that those who didn’t subscribe to his message would be eternally destroyed; 2) No, I don’t see any evidence of Pharisees engaging in a mission to gentiles, although matthew 23 does suggest they tried to convert non-Pharisaic Jews to Pharisaism. Not sure if you’ve read Martin Goodman on Mission and Conversion, but I think it’s completley compelling.

          • Robert
            Robert  June 22, 2019

            Bart: “2) No, I don’t see any evidence of Pharisees engaging in a mission to gentiles, although matthew 23 does suggest they tried to convert non-Pharisaic Jews to Pharisaism. Not sure if you’ve read Martin Goodman on Mission and Conversion, but I think it’s completley compelling.”

            I’ve read some of Martin Goodman’s work, and as I already mentioned above, I agree with him that ‘Judaism’ was not a missionary religion, but ‘Judaism’ was never monolithic. I suspect Paul did not come up with his idea of the mission to the gentiles all by himself. There are some minimal indications of precursor elements and room for worthwhile speculation. An apocalyptic reading of Deuter-Isaiah would look for and maybe strive for its fulfillment.

          • Bart
            Bart  June 23, 2019

            Yes, I think he saw himself and his mission as the fulfilmment of the predictions of Deutero-Isaiah

          • Robert
            Robert  June 23, 2019

            Bart: “Yes, I think he [Paul] saw himself and his mission as the fulfilmment of the predictions of Deuter-Isaiah”

            Sure. But what I’m wondering is why wouldn’t any other apocalyptic Jews (prior to Paul, even prior to Jesus) also have had a similar motivation to start bringing about the obedience of the gentiles during the end times prior to the coming of the Lord. Or do you think all of the other apocalyptic Jews were only waiting for a Messiah to do this for them?

          • Bart
            Bart  June 24, 2019

            I wish I knew too. But at least it doesn’t appear any did. Possibly they thought it would happen more supernaturally? Not everyone thought they themselves were the fulfillment of prophecy!

  14. Avatar
    mkahn1977  June 13, 2019

    I could never understand why Jesus of Nazareth would call his own people “the Jews” and “are the devil” but it makes sense someone later retrojected that on his lips.

    I’ve also read a lot of articles talking about “the Jews” meaning “the Judeans” versus the religious identification, but not sure it makes sense. At what point would someone, anyone, been referring to any group as “thew Jews”? Would it also make sense that whoever utilized/weaponized such polemical language be a person who wasn’t Jewish?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 14, 2019

      Yes, that idea is completely a modern understanding driven by veyr understandable Christian concerns to distance the New Testament from anything like anti-semitism. “Jews” are not the problem, in this view, even in the Gospel of John (and Matthew, etc.): the problem was simply a few people who lived in Judea. I totally sympathize with the motivation behind the view and support it: but it’s probably not a correct interpretation of what the authors had in mind.

  15. Avatar
    dannawid  June 14, 2019

    dr. ehrman,
    although charlston hudson did a good job portraying the biblical moses but in reality he would not have been allowed to address the king of egypt standing up. more likely he would have been prostrating before him. moses addressed the chief of the tribe of faroh whose land was misriam not egypt.
    the anciant egyptians were excellent record keepers as is apparent from the two expeditions they made outside egypt to kadish and to south west arabia around 1100 bc. no where in their carved in stone record they mentioned moses or the drowning of one of their kings. or the existance of hebrews in their midst. no serious egyptolegist or hygrogliphist take the story of moses and the king of egypt seriously. was there a moses? absolutely. was there a place called midian? of course there was and there is. it is in northern arabia. the late dr. kamal salibi’s book: the bible came from arabia, makes a very compelling argument about the geography of the OT.

  16. Avatar
    tcasto  June 18, 2019

    In your exchange with AlbertHodges and others , you differentiate the empty tomb from the visions. I’ve always felt the tomb stories were fanciful, on two grounds. The first is that crucifixion is a deliberately drawn out punishment. The victim is rarely so fortunate as to expire within hours of being nailed up. The second is that is highly unlikely that the Romans would have allowed anyone to claim the body, at any time. Part of the deterrent was to have the body rot in place.

    What say you?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 19, 2019

      That’s my whole argument in How Jesus Became God.

      • Avatar
        tcasto  June 19, 2019

        Thanks. I knew you had put the emphasis on the perceived resurrection but I didn’t recall whether you had discounted the very fact of a tomb, empty or otherwise.

      • Avatar
        Mortarion  June 20, 2019

        I have heard that as an allowance for Jewish customs the Roman government in Judaea allowed executed prisoners to be buried before nightfall, is there any truth to this? And if there is would they even have done it for traitorous criminals like Jesus was accused of?

        • Bart
          Bart  June 21, 2019

          No, I dont think so. I posted at length on it, long ago. Search for “Craig Evans” and you’ll see teh whole list of posts on that and related issues.

  17. Avatar
    Hon Wai  June 19, 2019

    Surely a crowd-attracting teacher of Scripture, fluent in quoting and interpeting Scripture, was unlikely to be viewed as uneducated?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 21, 2019

      It would be totally unlikely in our day and age, where *everyone* is educated. BUt in a world where 95% of the population did not have basic training in literacy, much less so.

  18. Avatar
    anvikshiki  June 27, 2019

    I am not in the field and have joined this discussion late, so if no reply, no proble. I don’t know how historically verifiable this hypothesis may be either. But may there not have been only theological reasons but also historical reasons behind the increasingly anti-Jewish rhetoric in the Gospels? The historical reasons I have in mind are of course the catastrophic Roman-Jewish War of the first century that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the bitter aftermath. In these circumstances, Christian communities, which were rapidly spreading among Gentiles but still probably had Jewish practitioners, did not want to be targeted as sects of Judaism despite Jesus’ own Jewish identity. So, the Gospel literature over time came to adopt more and more stark distinctions between Christians and Jews. This may also account for the progressively conspicuous portrayals in the Gospel literature of Pilate as relatively innocent of Jesus’ execution compared to their insistence that it was the temple leaders and their goading of the Jewish “crowds” that were primarily responsible for Jesus’ death. The increasing theological rejection of Judaism in the Gospels and later Patristic literature seemed to always dovetail with the social and political relations between empire and expanding church communities.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 28, 2019

      Yes, that’s often floated as a possibility. My reason for not thinking so is that the war ending in 70 did not seem to affect Jews or Roman-Jewish relations outside of the homeland, and all of our authors and most of the Christians wer ein fact living in these other places. But it certainly is worth thinking carefully and deeply about.

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